This is an interesting piece of Colt and New York City Police history. Its an antique pre-1898 Colt New Police Revolver in .32 Colt/.32 S&W, 4" barrel with a factory engraved backstrap marked "NEW YORK POLICE". In addition to those markings, the bottomstrap and front strap of the handle has the badge number of the New York Police Officer who carried it. Antique Pre-1898 serial number is in the 2800 range. The Colt Police was the grandfather to the modern double action Police revolver.
These were originally ordered by Theodore Roosevelt, NYPD who presided as President of the Board of Commissioners for the Department 1895-97. We all know of TR as the colorful Rough Rider in the Span Am War who became President of the United States, but his early years were far from mundane. After the loss of his wife, he spent several years out West as a rancher and even local Sheriff of his community. He eventually moved back East and began a career in public service during the 1880's. By the Mid-1890's Roosevelt had made a name for himself as a reformer on the New York Civil Service Board. He had fought hard to hire public servants based solely on their qualifications in direct contrast to how positions were usually filled.
With the public atmosphere charged by reform, Roosevelt must have seemed the perfect candidate for Police Commissioner. One might also have described Roosevelt as determined and completely impervious to corruption....two qualities that would be needed in the tough fights that lay ahead of him. Prior to Roosevelt joining the force, many officers were hired based on political friendships while others even bought their way onto the force. As one might have expected with such a poorly over-looked system, corruption was rampant. Roosevelt began to slowly change this. That's where this Colt Revolver enters the story. Traditionally, NYCPD Officers would arm themselves with pretty much whatever they wanted. Roosevelt saw the need for a standard service revolver that chambered the same ammunition and every officer would learn to use. After trying one out himself, Roosevelt ordered 4500 Colt New Police revolvers and began standardized training in marksmanship...a skill most 1890's era officers sorely lacked. He also fought hard to end corruption on the force by weeding out bad officers and constantly monitoring his men on their beats. It was not uncommon to find Roosevelt walking NYC streets late at night as he was out some nights until 3am. During his brief time in office before becoming the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt hired 1600 new officers based solely on their qualifications and standardized exam scores. In keeping up with the times, he even formed a special bicycle unit. While his tenure was short, just 2 years, Roosevelt's impact was felt. The changes he made were building blocks upon that helped shape the NYCPD into the modern day force we know today. This revolver is a direct historical link to Roosevelt's early career as a reformer and the beginning of the modern day NYCPD. One can only imagine the scenes, people, and life, witnessed by this revolver as it was carried through late 19th century New York City.
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Excellent with 80-85% original blue remaining overall. The trigger, back face of the hammer, and screws still show much of their original tempered fire blue. Very Good original hard rubber grips are numbered to the gun and show a few handling marks with strong checkering and Colt Motifs. Left side of frame marked "COLT'S NEW POLICE" wrapped around Rampant Colt symbol. Barrel is marked on left side "COLT NEW POLICE". Top of barrel has Colt name, Hartford address, with 1884 and 1888 patent dates. Backstrap is engraved in script style "New York Police". The engraving on the backstrap was performed by Colt and will letter as a special order feature.. Nice working action and a Very Good bore that is mostly bright with strong rifling and a few pits. Badge number of the officer who carried this revolver is stamped on the bottomstrap between the grips. Note: This was issued to at least two police officers. It appears that a previous badge number was removed before it was stamped with a new officer's badge number. We've seen another one similar to this with 2 badges numbers...one on the bottomstrap and another one along the frontstrap. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more interesting combination of Colt, Roosevelt, and New York City Police history than this little gun.